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  • Child Runaway

    Hello, this may be a strange question to ask here, but a 16 year old girl (as she claims) showed up at my door, telling me a man was chasing her and she needed to get away from him. I let her in, realizing she was telling the truth. A drunk man barged into the apartment, searching for which unit she was in, yelling and calling her name over and over. Soon after, he gave up on finding the girl and left. I told her I can drive her home or call her parents to pick her up, but I couldn't let her go back out by herself with that man around. She told me that she doesn't have a home, and that she ran away from her parents because she was being abused. She showed me her scars and her bruises, trying to find proof so I would believe her. I told her we should call some sort of child protective services, but she told me not to. She said her parents didn't care that she ran away, they never wanted her anyway. But if they got put into court for abuse, they would get angry and possibly try to track her down or who knows what. Or, the other option is that they would be proven not guilty, and she would be forced to live with them again because she was underage. She told me that both her and her parents were happy now, and she's rather not mess anything up.

    I'm letting her stay with me for the night, watching over her just to make sure she didn't do anything sketchy. I felt too bad for her to let her go back out. She was very skinny, underweight, and looked like she hadn't washed for a very long time. All this evidence points to the fact that she is, indeed, homeless. I believe that much. But I wish there was some way she could prove that she was abused. I feel terrible for her, but I've heard many stories about people letting in homeless people and paying for it, severely.

    Also, I'm worried about the legal consequences of letting a minor stay with me. I was homeless for a little while, and I understand the troubles she went through. But I had a halfway decent relationship with my parents, and I've never known any runaways. I can't relate to that.

    Should I somehow get in contact with her parents, maybe ask for consent? Should I ignore what she said about the consequences of Child Services, and make her go there? Or should I even trust anything she said about being abused? It's possible she was just a stupid kid getting into drugs and running away from her parents so she wouldn't have to deal with their reactions. Or maybe she is telling the truth. Regardless, I feel very bad for her.

    What should I do?

    Im very sorry this question was so long. I just felt I should include lots of detail so I can get a better answer.

  • #2

    Hello and thank you for reaching out to the National Runaway Safeline. Thank you also for having the courage to help out this young person and share so much information about their situation. It sounds like you have been as understanding and as helpful as you can be.


    While we are not legal experts, we do have a great deal of experience working with runaways and can provide you our understanding of the answers to your questions. If her parents are actually concerned with her welfare and have filed a runaway report, then they could attempt to press charges against you for harboring a runaway. However, those kinds of charges can be difficult to pursue, especially in instances where the person sheltering the youth believes them to be in an unsafe situation.


    Unfortunately, there is no “right” answer or way to go about this. All of the options you suggested are very reasonable. We generally prioritize the safety of the youth in order to evaluate what they might want to do next. Given that they were being chased by someone and have lived in a potentially abusive household, it may be best to do what you can within what the youth is comfortable with. If you are interested, you can give us a call and we can look through our database for safe youth/runaway shelters in your local area. That way the youth could be out of your custody but also in a safe and comfortable place.


    If you want to talk in greater depth about what is going on and what options you have, please don’t hesitate to give us a call back at 1-800-786-2929 or chat us at 1800runaway.org.

    Take care,
    NRS
    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

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